In the last post I shared our hike up Mount Moriah. Today we're going to stay with the North Snake Range, where a small lightning-strike caused fire has been blown by strong, gusty winds into a large wildfire.
At first you might say, "Oh no, the poor forest is burning!"
What I'm saying, as an ecologist, is "Hurray, that forest really needs to burn! The aspens might have a chance of surviving if the encroaching conifers are burned back, and the bighorn sheep habitat should be vastly improved."
What my husband, the rancher, says, "Good, those canyons are overgrown with too many trees and fewer trees means more water will be coming out of the canyons."
What is certain is that over one hundred years of fire suppression has caused for some very dense understory. If you've ever tried to hike off-trail in the Snake Range, you know what I mean!
The fire was under a 100 acres for the first few days just in the Hampton watershed. Strong winds blew it over into Little Horse and Horse Canyons. The first night the fire got big, the ridgetop glowed at night.
Last night we took a drive out to see the fire better. (We saw quite a few other people out doing the same thing.)
The fire had been updated in size to 4500 acres, and we wanted to see it from a different angle. We drove up to the road towards Horse Canyon and found smoke emerging from several canyons, but it wasn't coming from the mouth of any of the canyons.
A helicopter flew over. More and more aircraft are involved with fires now. It can make it easier to see what's going on and to respond in some cases, but aircraft really add to the cost of a fire.
As the light faded, we saw headlights approaching from both Horse and Smith canyons. The Gila hotshots had been up there. While the fire was small, a wildfire monitoring crew from Colorado was stationed there. Now there are over 100 personnel on the fire since it covers much more ground. The fire is really cleaning a lot of forest!
This fire will likely be going on for some time, as no rain is in the forecast, and many of the flames are high up on steep hillsides where it's not safe for firefighters to go (plus those areas should burn anyway). The Forest Service supervisor is very happy with the fire, as it is burning in an area that they've wanted to have burn for a long time. The fire doesn't threaten any lives or structures. (It must be rare to have nearly a whole mountain range with no structures on it!)
For the most up-to-date information, check out the Ely Fire Facebook page.